MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- A lobbyist for an industry group supporting wind power apologized to a Vermont Senate committee on Wednesday after a witness she brought in called health concerns connected with wind power "hoo-hah," nonsense and propaganda.
Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, called the remarks of acoustics expert Geoff Levanthall unhelpful and offered an apology to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee after Leventhall testified at the hearing by phone from England.
"There's no scientific evidence behind what they (critics of wind power) say," Leventhall said. "It's all made-up, make-believe, trying to find something to object to, and trying to find something that will be difficult to disprove. It's a technique, a propaganda technique, and they've been very, very effective."
Afterward, Stebbins said she regretted Leventhall's comments. "I don't think that's helpful for the debate and, for the record, I do apologize for that."
Stebbins' comments came at the end of the hearing in which two Vermont doctors — one of them critical of a wind power project near his home in Ira and of the industry generally — testified about what they said were ill health effects connected with wind power among people living near the turbines.
Leventhall did describe for the committee low-frequency, inaudible "infrasound," that some blame on problems connected with wind turbines but that he said have less of an impact on people than sounds generated within the body, like the heartbeat.
The committee also heard from Luann Therrien, a Sheffield resident who said she and her husband have suffered severe sleep loss leading to depression since 16 turbines operated by First Wind began operating within about two miles of their home, with the closest being about a half mile away.
"We did not oppose the project, not until it was up and running and creating noise," Therrien said. "I have constant ringing in my ears that can be very distracting. My husband has been feeling so bad that he is currently unable to work. His doctor has pulled him from his job."
Discussion centered on sleep loss due to audible sounds from the turbines and on infrasound, the low-frequency noise inaudible to human ears but which some doctors have linked to ill health effects — sometimes called wind turbine syndrome.
Dr. Sandy Reider, a primary care provider practicing in Lyndonville, told the committee he had seen "a half dozen or so patients who are suffering from living in proximity to these turbines." He told of one particularly tough case of a 33-year-old, healthy man who developed problems after a wind turbine began operation on Burke Mountain near his home.
The man "began to experience increasingly severe insomnia, waking multiple times at night with severe anxiety and heart palpitations, and experiencing during the daytime pressure headaches, nausea, ringing in his ears and difficulty concentrating," Reider said.